Proposed Legislation Would Provide Workers’ Compensation Protection to NCAA Student Athletes in Illinois

March 10, 2024

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Brent Eames

Proposed legislation was introduced on 2/9/2024 by Rep. Kam Buckner which could have an enormous and dramatic impact on college sports in Illinois, as well as the Workers’ Compensation Act in general. HB 5625 was introduced in Springfield which seeks to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act. The proposed amendment provides that the definition of “employee” would include every student participant in an athletic program at an institution of higher education, but only when the student is participating in an athletic event, traveling to and from an athletic event, or an organized training activity. The bill also sets forth a provision to calculate the average weekly wage of a student athlete.

When it comes to qualifying for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits, rule #1 is generally that the injured worker needs to be an employee, or the Workers’ Compensation Act will not apply. The proposed bill does not redefine this employee requirement, but instead carves out an exception for student athletes without actually calling them employees of the institutions of higher education. Under the proposed amendment, if a student-athlete becomes injured during a competition, practice, or while traveling to and from an athletic event, they would be eligible for all benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act, including payment of related medical expenses, temporary total disability benefits, and an appropriate award for permanent impairment.

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, all benefits for temporary disability and permanent disability are based upon the employee’s average weekly wage. This raises the question of how a student athlete will be compensated if they are not technically paid any wages by the universities? The proposed amendment addresses this by attempting to calculate applicable benefit rates using the total scholarship awarded to the student athlete, or any other grants or subsidies.

This is an extremely interesting bill which will be important for all practitioners to monitor as it makes its way through the legislative process.

We are proud to be consistently ranked among the top attorneys in Illinois in personal injury lawworkers’ compensation law, and first responders’ injury law.

Eames Law Group, Ltd. never stops fighting for our clients, and we will aggressively push cases to trial in order to obtain justice when insurance companies attempt to trample on the rights of our clients.  If an insurance company has denied your claim or refused to pay work comp benefits, you owe it to yourself to contact one of the best work comp attorneys in Chicago, Brent Eames, to discuss your rights.  If you have been injured, you should immediately contact Brent Eames for a free consultation to discuss your options.

The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact an attorney at Eames Law Group, Ltd.

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